Local ordinances that prevent day laborers from soliciting employment in public areas hurt the Latino community and are contrary to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. The Redondo Beach anti-solicitation ordinance made it unlawful to stand on the sidewalk and solicit employment, business, or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle. The City of Redondo Beach began aggressively enforcing its anti-solicitation ordinance in 2004 through a sting operation in which police officers posing as employers would pick up day laborers, arrest them, and transport them to jail.
On November 16, 2004, MALDEF filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of day laborers in Redondo Beach. The lawsuit challenged the city’s anti-solicitation ordinance as a violation of the First Amendment free speech rights of day laborers.
On April 27, 2006, the Honorable Judge Consuelo Marshall struck down the City of Redondo Beach’s ordinance. Although Judge Marshall held that the ordinance was content-neutral, she found the ordinance unconstitutional as an impermissible time, place, and manner restriction on the free speech right of day laborers to solicit employment in the City of Redondo Beach.
The City of Redondo Beach appealed Judge Marshall’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Oral argument was held before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California on May 9, 2008.
This is one of many anti-solicitation ordinances that federal courts have struck down as unconstitutional First Amendment restrictions. The district court’s decision preserves the free speech rights of day laborers, and allows them to continue to solicit work and to provide for their families.
Judge Prohibits Enforcement of Anti-Day Laborer Law
Citing Vague and Overly Broad Implications of the Law Redondo Beach Judge Prohibits Ordinance
May 02, 2006
LOS ANGELES, CA — In an opinion released yesterday, a federal judge has permanently enjoined the City of Redondo Beach from the enforcing its ordinance that sought to bar day laborers from seeking work. The decision is significant as many municipalities around the country increasingly rely on such ordinances to discourage day laborer activity.
The ordinance makes it unlawful to stand on the sidewalk and solicit “employment, business, or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle.” Two day laborer organizations, including the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (“NDLON”), challenged the ordinance as violative of the free speech rights of their worker members.
In her 29-page order, Judge Consuelo Marshall rejected the city’s argument that its ordinance was simply a valid “time, place and manner” restriction on sidewalk activity. The court found that the ordinance was overbroad in various ways. For example, while the city has a legitimate interest in promoting traffic and pedestrian safety, the ordinance could result in the arrest of someone attempting to hail a cab. In fact, the court noted that the ordinance would technically apply to “Girl Scouts selling cookies on the sidewalk.”
Chris Newman, Legal Programs Coordinator of NDLON, commented on the opinion saying, “Judge Marshall’s decision was a victory for free speech advocates across the country. We hope that this ruling will put other municipalities on notice that such ordinances and their use to target day laborers seeking employment violate the First Amendment.”
NDLON is being represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (“MALDEF”). Lead counsel Robert Rubin, with the Lawyers’ Committee, argued the case before Judge Marshall in December 2005. Rubin stated, “This decision is full vindication for day laborers who simply seek to fill jobs from employers in need of workers. We can now only hope that the Congress will accord similar respect and dignity to these workers, many undocumented, as it deliberates over a legalization plan as part of its comprehensive immigration reform package.”